How the Universe Talks to Me

It’s usually through a series of otherwise unconnected but often chronologically proximal events that the Divine chooses to send me messages.  A theme emerges.  A thread becomes spiritually visible.  A connection is made.  And the message is undeniable.

Item 1:  A few years ago, I was part of developing a new theme at the Unity church where I attend and am involved in leadership.  The theme was “authentic transformation.”  It was what I felt I was undergoing and what I believed to be core to the spiritual journey.  Every Sunday morning in my roll as “platform person” at Unity of Music City in Old Hickory, TN, I say something to the effect of “Welcome to Unity Music City, a place of authentic transformation.  It’s who we are.  It’s what we do.”

Item 2:  A year or so ago, I had the privilege of meeting Michael McRay when he was speaking at Unity of MC about his reconciliation work in Israel and Palestine.  I saw him again at a workshop for Narrative4, a story-telling reconciliation practice he facilitates.  I saw him a third time just a couple of weeks ago when he conducted a Narrative4 workshop at the college where I teach.  What strikes me every time I hear Michael is that he is a very young man (28? 29?) who is able to clearly communicate his purpose.  Michael will state in no uncertain terms “This is my purpose, and these are the ways I express it in the world.”

Item 3:  During a recent Wednesday night class at Unity of MC, the idea of purpose entered the discussion.  My dear friend and minister, Denise Yeargin, said, “I know my friend, Deb, is a teacher, and a darn fine one, but I also know that is not her purpose.  Am I right?”  And she looked right at me.  I said, “You’re right.”  It was as if the Universe was saying, “You’ve danced around this for a while now; it’s time to turn it into a declarative statement.”  I hesitated for just a moment, and then I said, intuitively, “My purpose is enthusiasm.  My purpose is to help others find enthusiasm in life.”

Item 4:  I went home that night and looked up “enthusiasm” once again.  I had looked it up before, and I knew that it meant something akin to “God within.”  But when I looked this time, I found a more definitive translation from the original Greek that I don’t remember ever seeing before.  It was “possessed by the essence of God.”  Oh, brother.  That about brought me to my knees.

Item 5:  I posted something on Facebook about a successful teacher moment.  For me, a successful teacher moment is when a student expresses some newfound enthusiasm for their journey because of something that happens in my classroom.  In the comments on the post, one of my former students, from way back in my second or third year of teaching, said this, “You’re a transformational educator . . . always have been.  Thank you for your heart, mind, and spirit!  You are one of the best to ever do it! #thankGodforTSU #freshmanhonorsenglish #myfave #abetterwriterforit”  Okay, so that totally rocked my world, but what really stood out to me was that word “transformational.”

The last meeting with Michael McRay, the Wednesday night class, and the former student’s comment happened within 10 days of each other.

And it all brings me here:

My purpose in life is to teach the transformational power of enthusiasm.  My purpose is to show how transformational it is to be possessed by the essence of God.  I do this through teaching, through singing, through my work at Unity of Music City, through my work in the classroom, through my one-on-one encounters with students, through my work as a chaplain in the pastoral care ministry at Unity, and through every conversation or thought I have.

I do this by living a transformed life with enthusiasm.

And so it is.

How an Election Set us Free

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time wondering why Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States.  This is not the kind of “why” that is actually asking “how.”  I’m not contemplating what did or didn’t get said by the Trump Camp or the Clinton Camp to Rust Belt workers or West Virginia coal miners or disillusioned Bernie-or-Busters.

No, this is a true why.  If every development in life has meaning (and I believe it does), then what is the meaning here?  If every event has purpose (and I believe it does), then what is the purpose now?  In other words, why?

I believe there are probably scads of answers to the why, maybe one for each of us.  I may have landed on one that works for me, though.

There is a concept called “American Exceptionalism.”  It is the belief that America’s history (including her world-changing Revolution) and democracy (which the rest of the world needs, of course) place this nation in a superior position.  It is the belief that the United States is truly exceptional, truly better than the rest of the world.  This belief is so widely held in political circles that President Obama was “accused” by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal of not adhering to it, a claim that might be considered “fightin’ words” to many on Capitol Hill.

This sense of American Exceptionalism oozes from the pores of our society.  We see it in the cocky strut of an NFL player scoring a touchdown.  We hear it in the chants of “USA! USA! USA!” at the Olympics.  Any teacher can vouch for the unearned level of confidence displayed by a student population that ranks unremarkably in the middle of the worldwide pack in science and math.

The truth is we’re not exceptional.  This is especially true for those, like me, who believe in the unity and equality of all humanity.  Yes, we had a remarkable Revolution and established an early model of modern democracy.  I know how profound all of that was; I teach it on a fairly regular basis.  But we didn’t invent democracy, the Greeks did.  And we didn’t win a revolution on our own; the French helped considerably, as did others.  And in the midst of lofty ideas of civil liberties were the more base motivators of taxes, trade, and economy.

No, we’re not exceptional.  We’re another link in a long chain of human evolution.  We have some truly admirable qualities; we also have many that are not.

In 1630, John Winthrop preached a sermon to Puritans on board the Arbella.  The sermon was called “A Model of Christian Charity,” and in it he referred to the society they would form in the New World as “a city upon a hill.”  The phrase comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, but since Winthrop, it has been synonymous with first the colonies and then the nation.  The concept maintains that this “city upon a hill” is a model for the world.   It was not merely a 17th century idea.  John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and, yes, Barack Obama all made references to it during various speeches.

And that brings us back to Donald Trump.  During the 2016 Presidential Campaign, Mitt Romney made this statement about Trump:  “His domestic policies would lead to recession; his foreign policies would make America and the world less safe.  He has neither the temperament nor the judgement to be president, and his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”

And there’s my why.  We’ve thought we were hot shit quite long enough.  We’re not.  We sometimes make terrible mistakes.  If we can manage some humility, we might learn something through this.  At the very least, we can finally put down that heavy mantle of greatness we’ve lugged around for so long.

Meditation on a Rose

I watch you.

So long that I forget about time.

So intently that I forget about space.

I watch you until I forget what you are called.


Eventually, I am no longer watching you.  

A watcher is separate, and I have become

the suede of your petals,

the sinew of your stalk,

the sting of your thorn,

the essence of your fragrance,

the photosynthesis of your leaves.


For a moment longer than time and

smaller than a split atom

you and I are one.